February 23, 2012


Filed under: Children and Families,Lectionary,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 4:57 pm

I love church bathrooms. Whether I’m visiting for worship or consultation, it’s the first place I go when I arrive. The bathroom says so much about the life and ministry of the congregation.

From energy-conscious light switch timers to an outhouse behind a summer chapel, from community resource and hotline information to random spaces that double as storage closets, the range of church bathrooms is as varied—and revealing—as life in Maine itself.

My favorite bathroom offers the simplest of ministries: in an otherwise unremarkable space, someone has taped a little card to the bottom of each mirror, “Behold, a child of God.”

It’s so simple. So affirming. Every time I visit this church I duck into the bathroom whether I need it or not, just to look in the mirror—I might preach my best sermon or my worst; I might get somewhere in the meeting or not. Either way, I am a beloved child of God, working with other beloved children of God to live faithfully as a congregation in this community.

The mindful practice of this affirmation is one of the things I most admire about Quaker fellowship. Friends externalize their understanding that there is that of Christ in every person by addressing one another as thee or thou in conversation, signifying that an interaction with another human being is an interaction with the Holy. These Friends go way beyond taping a little sign to a mirror in the meetinghouse—they write it on each other’s foreheads in permanent marker.

Now, let’s not get carried away—addressing each other as thee or thou probably wouldn’t catch on with most Episcopalians. But what if, every time we looked at someone, we saw the Spirit descending like a dove and heard a voice from heaven, “This is a beloved child in whom God is well pleased.”?

How would our offerings of prayer, presence, and service be reshaped if we were to take that even farther, remembering that God’s covenant with Noah is not a covenant with humankind, but an “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”?

These are big questions on this First Sunday in Lent, questions that call us to move beyond our assumptions and listen faithfully to one another. These questions pull us into the difficult realms of politics, justice, the environment, economics, and otherness. They take stewardship well beyond the tithe, into the world of “Does what we do with the other 90% matter to God as well?”

The answers won’t come easily, but the questions are worth wrestling. We approach them with confidence, secure in knowing that “all the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”


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